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Evacuees’ medical needs mounting

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Philippine Red Cross medical volunteers check on Mataas na Kahoy Elementary School evacuees in Batangas on Sunday. Services include medical consultation, blood chemistry and urinalysis, x-ray, ECG, ultrasound, detox and distribution of medicines. (PRC Facebook)

The Philippine Red Cross is studying where best to put up an emergency medical unit in Batangas to accommodate ill residents following the closure of at least six hospitals due to the Taal Volcano eruption.

“We are studying where we should put up a medical tent because six hospitals were already closed down. The way things are going, we have to prepare for a possible increase in cases of respiratory illness. The hospitals there may not be able to accommodate all the patients,” said Senator Richard J. Gordon, also the PRC chair, on Sunday.

Red Cross teams deployed to Batangas assisted other government agencies in evacuating seriously-ill patients from the six hospitals.

Gordon also instructed Red Cross chapters in Metro Manila as well as in Bulacan to send additional staff and volunteers to augment the teams already deployed to the Calabarzon province.

“Our chapter in Batangas immediately responded. May (There are) 100 staff and volunteers na doon pero magpapadala ako ng (there but I will also send) additional staff and volunteers from our chapters in Metro Manila and from our Bulacan chapter para may kapalitan sila (so they will have relievers). We are also getting additional equipment and vehicles from our other chapters,” said Gordon.

PRC staff and volunteers are assisting the government evacuate other residents to the 179 centers in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna.

Since the volcano’s sudden activities on Sunday, the PRC has distributed masks to the affected population, provided hotmeals, distributed hygiene kits, sleeping kits, jerry cans, and multi-purpose cash grants.

It also mobilized four food trucks, a rescue truck, nine ambulances and four water tankers. The PRC also installed 15 portable toilets, set up 20 welfare desks and 20 first aid stations and constructed temporary shower rooms.

 

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Lakers bury Nuggets 3-1 to close in on NBA Finals

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LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the match in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. (AFP)

Anthony Davis posted 34 points while LeBron James added 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the gritty Denver Nuggets, 114-108, on Friday (Manila time) in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers buried the Nuggets 3-1 in the series to close in to a trip back to the NBA Finals since winning it all in 2010 – the last time the storied franchise held the crown behind Kobe Bryant.

Game 5 is on Sunday (Manila time).

James grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists for the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got 13 points, Dwight Howard pulled down 11 boards and had 12 points for Los Angeles.

Paul Millsap’s pair of free throws cut Denver’s deficit to 112-108 with 27 seconds remaining in the game. Davis iced the game, sinking both his free throws with 21.4 left as Jamal Murray missed his three-point attempt in the Nuggets’ last possession.

Murray finished with 32 points for the Nuggets, who found themselves in a very familiar situation after being pushed on the brink by Utah and the LA Clippers only to pull off a couple of historic series comebacks.

Murray, who shot 12-of-20 from the field, added eight assists, Jerami Grant got 17 while Nikola Jokic struggled with five fouls to finish with 16 points and seven rebounds.

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Rio postpones world-famous carnival over Covid-19

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Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous carnival parades became the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic Thursday as officials announced they were indefinitely postponing the February 2021 edition, with Brazil still reeling from Covid-19.

Rio’s carnival, the world’s biggest, is an epidemiologist’s nightmare in a pandemic: an extended festival of tightly packed crowds dancing through the streets and flocking to the city’s iconic “Sambadrome” for massive parades featuring scantily clad dancers, small armies of drummers and all-night partying at close quarters.

The event draws millions of tourists from around Brazil and the world to the beachside city each year.

The city’s elite samba schools, which typically spend the entire year preparing their elaborate parades, had said in July it would be difficult to organize the event for February 2021 if there were still no certainty of a vaccine for the new coronavirus by late September.

Meeting again to assess the situation, “we came to the conclusion that the event had to be postponed,” said Jorge Castanheira, the president of the group that organizes the annual parades, the Independent League of Samba Schools of Rio de Janeiro (LIESA).

“We just can’t do it in February. The samba schools won’t have the time or financial and organizational resources to be ready,” he told journalists after a plenary meeting by the group’s directors.

“It’s not a cancellation, it’s a postponement. We are looking for an alternative solution, something we can do when it’s safe to contribute to the city…. But we aren’t certain enough to set a date.”

Planning problems

In reality, “carnival” comprises numerous events, from the elite samba school parade contest organized by LIESA to less-formal “blocos,” or street parties.

LIESA’s announcement applies only to the samba school competition. City authorities have not yet announced whether “blocos” will be allowed.

Speculation had been mounting that authorities would have to cancel or postpone carnival in 2021, given that Brazil is the country with the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States, and is still struggling to bring the virus under control.

Brazil has registered 4.7 million infections and nearly 140,000 deaths from Covid-19.

And while the spread of the virus has slowed somewhat since its July peak, the numbers are still alarmingly high in Brazil, with an average of nearly 30,000 new cases and 735 new deaths per day over the past two weeks, according to health ministry figures.

Brazil has struggled to set a cohesive policy to deal with the pandemic.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has railed against lockdown measures as a catastrophe for the economy, and downplayed the disease as a “little flu,” despite being forced into quarantine for nearly three weeks when he caught it himself in July.

Rio de Janeiro has been the state hit second-hardest in Brazil, after Sao Paulo, the country’s industrial hub.

With 18,000 people killed so far, if Rio state were a country, it would have the world’s second-highest mortality rate from Covid-19, at 104 deaths per 100,000 residents.

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Novavax enters late-stage clinical trials

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US biotech firm Novavax said Thursday it was initiating its final Phase 3 clinical trial for its experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

The trial will be carried out in the United Kingdom and aims to enroll 10,000 volunteers, aged 18-84, with and without underlying conditions, over the next four to six weeks.

“With a high level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission observed and expected to continue in the UK, we are optimistic that this pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial will enroll quickly and provide a near-term view of NVX-CoV2373’s efficacy,” said Gregory Glenn, the company’s president of research and development, using the technical name for the formulation.

It is the eleventh Covid-19 vaccine candidate to reach the Phase 3 stage globally.

The company has been awarded $1.6 billion by the US government to develop and fund the drug, which is administered by two intramuscular injections.

The Maryland-based company uses insect cells to grow synthesized pieces of the spike protein of the virus, which it hopes will evoke a robust human immune response.

It also uses an “adjuvant,” a compound that boosts the production of neutralizing antibodies.

The company says the drug, which is a liquid formulation, can be stored at two degrees celsius to eight degrees celsius, refrigerator temperature.

In the spring, the company said it had proven the efficacy of a seasonal flu vaccine it had developed using the same technology.

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PPA launches contact tracing app TRAZE

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Dumangas port in Iloilo. (RGKRD image)

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has launched a contact tracing mobile application called TRAZE for use in all public ports in the country.

The launch of TRAZE is part of the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) effort to control the spread of COVID-19 in the maritime sector. It will help hasten the conduct of contact tracing for COVID-19 cases using only a mobile phone even without an Internet.

In accordance with the directive of DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade to expand the use of technology in transportation programs and systems under the new normal.

How to use the app is contained in the video instruction link https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1824140961058365&id=130406490431829.

The DoTr and PPA reminded the public to be well-informed and to cooperate with the initiatives of the government in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

p: wjg

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Iloilo City reverts to MECQ until Oct. 9

MJ Blancaflor

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Mayor Treñas recently placed the city hall under a three-day lockdown. (SBI image)

Iloilo City would revert to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from 25 September until 9 October following a spike of COVID-19 cases.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this was the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases as formalized in its Resolution No. 74.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Jerry Treñas announced in a Facebook post that the local government’s COVID Team has recommended to impose a 15-day MECQ in the city, which is currently under a more lenient modified general community quarantine.

Under MECQ, all citizens are required to stay home, except those working in essential businesses or authorized persons outside residence. Public transportation and domestic flights are also suspended.

Treñas recently placed the city hall under a three-day lockdown after 33 of its employees from the Treasurer’s Office contracted the dreaded virus.

The city also imposed total lockdowns in 13 of its barangays to control virus transmission.

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House COVID-19 cases rises to 81

Michelle R. Guillang

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Another employee from the office of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has tested positive for COVID-19 raising to 81 the number of infected workers at the House of Representatives.

The latest case reported for work on 21 to 23 September and got tested after experiencing dry and itchy throat.

Meanwhile, two confirmed cases at the House have recovered, bringing down total active cases to 13.

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PLDT assures connectivity during emergency maintenance

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The AAG Cable System is a fiber optic submarine cable from the US to Southeast Asia.

Online classes and work from home won’t be disrupted when PLDT undertakes emergency maintenance activities of one of its submarine cable systems for five days, the telecommunications firm said in a Facebook advisory.

“In light of the emergency maintenance activities of one of our submarine cable systems Asia-America Gateway from September 26, 9AM to September 30, 5AM (Philippine Standard Time),we wish to assure PLDT and Smart customers of continued internet connectivity all throughout,” read the post in PLDT’s Facebook page Thursday evening.

“Students can still do their online studies and exams, and users in homes and businesses can go about their normal internet-based activities during this time,” it added.

PLDT said it has identified alternative cable systems to keep its connectivity resilient. Moreover, it adopted measures such as traffic rerouting and local caching to ensure that most frequently downloaded content are located in the Philippines.

 

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Arroyo raises possibility of 2022 presidential polls suspension

Michelle R. Guillang

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Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo on Thursday has raised the possibility of suspending the 2022 presidential elections in case the pandemic continues to drag on.

At the hearing of the Commission on Elections proposed 2021 budget, Arroyo, son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, asked the poll chief Sheriff Abas if the body would consider postponing the national elections because of the pandemic.

Arroyo said that he is “very sure that many contaminations will happen” once the elections are pushed through.

“Do you consider the proposal of postponing the elections…coming from you and not from us, the members of the Congress? Because people might think we have a motive to extend our term,” said Arroyo.

He further mentioned the sentiments of the businessmen in his district, saying they opted to abstain from voting in the next election because they are afraid to contract the deadly virus.

 “I hope the thought will linger in their minds. I’m not saying they should do it, just consider it,” he added.

In response, Abas said elections cannot be put off because it is a “Constitutional provision”.  And besides, it is only the president and the Congress
could decide on the matter.

Nonetheless, the body had already created a committee that will prepare for the 2022 elections in case the pandemic continues.

Comelec Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz, for his part, said if the pandemic persists until the next two years, it will implement the procedures applied in overseas absentee voting where Filipinos abroad could vote within a 30-day schedule.

He added that they will limit the voters inside a precinct to a maximum of five.

 

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COVID-19 WATCH

EU urges new measures to head off virus second wave

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The European Commission urged EU members states Thursday to better explain and enforce social distancing and hygiene rules to halt a dangerous new wave of coronavirus infections.

Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “In some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March. This is a real cause for concern.

“All member states need to roll out measures immediately and at the right time at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks.”

Europe has now had more than five million coronavirus cases, and several countries have begun reimposing local lockdown rules to head off a return to uncontrolled spread.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year, but cases of new infections are soaring once again in many areas.

But Kyriakides, whose office has sought to coordinate the response across the 27 member states, warned that some areas had clearly begun to lift restrictions too soon.

“What this means, to be very clear, is that the control measures taken have simply not being effective enough or not being enforced or followed as they should have been,” she said.

“We cannot lower our guard. This crisis is not behind us. Moreover, winter is the time of the year for more respiratory illnesses, including seasonal influenza.”

And she warned: “Today we’re here to call on everyone to act decisively… it might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”

Kyriakides said that member state governments would have to fight misinformation about the virus and reach out to young people to head off protests and conspiracy theories.

And she warned they will have to act quickly to prevent a need for a return to generalized lockdowns, which she said would hurt the economy, education, and the mental health of the public.

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